According to the CPS’ own press release advertising the case, on 23 April it authorised the first charge of corporate manslaughter under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act. The company on the receiving end of the charge is Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings Ltd.
The case centres on the death of Alexander Wright, one of the company’s employees, on 5 September 2008. Mr Wright, a junior geologist, was taking soil samples from inside a pit which had been excavated as part of a site survey when the sides of the pit collapsed, crushing him.
Peter Eaton, a director of the company, has been charged with gross negligence manslaughter and with an offence contrary to s37 of HSWA. The company has also been charged with failing to discharge its duties under HSWA.
Bearing mind the fact that under the Corporate Manslaughter Act an organisation can be guilty of corporate manslaughter if the way in which its activities are managed or organised by its senior managers is a cause of someone’s death and amounts to a gross breach of a duty of care to the deceased [see our previous note on the Act – click here], it is perhaps unsurprising that in a case in which the CPS considers there to be sufficient evidence to merit prosecution of a relatively small company’s director for gross negligence manslaughter it has also chosen to prosecute that company for corporate manslaughter.
This factor may or may not mean that the case, other than being the first in which the new legislation is applied, has limited significance.
The case is listed for its first hearing at Stroud Magistrates' Court on 17 June.